Being a Good Houseguest (Vámonos Vol. 8)

The Spanish say, “After three days, fish and houseguests get old.”  In my experience, sometimes the guests get old faster than the fish.  To quote a more modern phrase, “Don’t be that guy.”  It’s not difficult to be a good houseguest, but it makes all the difference.  The main thing you need to have is common sense.

There are any number of reasons why staying in a house can be preferable to staying in a hotel.  A home is a real environment where people actually live.  You can see firsthand how the people in the city you are visiting interact with their homes in their community.  A lot of what you learn while traveling is not contained in museums; it is witnessed in the lives of others.  It’s also cheaper to stay in a house.

But being a houseguest comes with responsibility.  You need to engage with your hosts.  If invited to a dinner or two, you should definitely go.  Remember, these people are going out of their way to make you happy and comfortable, so you should make every effort to return that favor.  At the same time, you cannot expect too much of your host.  If they offer to be your guide to the city, that is lovely, but it should by no means be expected.  Sometimes as a guest the best thing you can do is take care of your own entertainment.

In a previous article (Beer, Bread and Bananas), we covered food and eating in places where you may not be able to stomach local cuisine.  This problem becomes a little trickier when you are a houseguest. In order to avoid embarrassing or awkward situations, try to inform your hosts of anything you might not be able to eat in advance. If attending a dinner, it may be wise to offer to bring something to share that you know you can eat.

Always respect the place you are staying.  The main thing here is common sense.  You need to be clean, particularly in the bathroom, which you will likely share with your hosts.  Don’t leave the shower curtain open and a puddle of water in the middle of the floor, or something worse.  Keep your sleeping area tidy, even if you’re given your own room.  Take care not to damage any part of the house or apartment.  Generally, try to make the house a nicer place because you’re there.


Trip Tips

What is an appropriate housewarming gift?

Traditional gifts are generally the safest.  Wine, pop, beer, or whatever your hosts drink is fine.  Also, flowers or chocolates are nice.  If you want to be more creative or original, by all means give it a shot.

Can you stay out late?

You will often be on a different schedule from your host, so try to have as a good time as you can without making it unpleasant for them to get up for work in the morning.  If they have an extra key, that can solve this problem.

What can I do to show my thanks at the end of the trip?

It’s always nice to take your host out to dinner towards the end of your trip.  While a host or hostess gift is a good way to acknowledge the favor your host is doing, a dinner is a great final thanks.

Should you expect your hosts to be your tour guides?



This article will appear in Extra September 9.  As soon as it is available I will link the Spanish Translation.


This article is available en Español

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